Council Adds To Budget -- But Not For Teachers' Raises

Straw Vote Adds Cash For Books, New Hires

May 08, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

County teachers, angry and disillusioned over canceled pay raises next year, received no good salary news in the $1.1 million that the County Council agreed Tuesday to restore to the 1991-1992 school budget.

In straw votes that generally split along party lines, the council's Democratic majority decided to restore money to hire teachers and custodians, buy textbooks and materials and cover costs of professional seminars for teachers.

But no council member proposed a salary increase or longevity pay for school employees during Tuesday's final work session on theschool budget.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the May 8 Howard County Sun incorrectly quoted James R. Swab, president of the Howard County Education Association, on the actions teachers are considering to express their frustration and disappointment over not receiving a salary increase in 1991-1992.
The article should have said that teachers are thinking of curtailing night meetings and similar voluntary activities.
The Howard County Sun regrets the error.

"I'm feeling like a fairy godmother to be able to put a little back for programs," said Shane E. R. Pendergrass, D-1st.

Howard County Education Association President James R. Swab said teachers are looking at curtailing the hours they volunteer in helping students after school, grading papers and calling parents at night.

The council vote will not be official until the May 23 adoption of the county's $270 million operating budget, but changes appear unlikely.

"There just really wasn't any support for (the teacher raise)," said Councilman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, who tried unsuccessfullyto float the idea of adding to the proposed property tax increase togive longevity raises to school and county employees.

The budget County Executive Charles I. Ecker sent to the council calls for a 14-cent property tax increase over the current $2.45 per $100 of assessed value. The owner of a $150,000 home would pay $165 a year more in taxes.

Farragut said support for higher property tax increases to restore more money to the school budget came from his western Columbiadistrict. But he suspected the sentiment was much weaker countywide.

Council members shifted nearly $1.6 million of the school budget between categories and increased the county share of the budget by $1.1 million. Nearly $1 million of the $1.6 million was transferred from Social Security and retirement increases. The money was to cover benefit increases that would have accompanied the 6 percent raise called for in the teachers contract.

Council members freed an additional $600,000 by shifting rooftop ventilation units and replacement boilers to the school system's capital budget, where the items will be financed by bonds rather than property and income taxes.

The restored items followed a list of priorities that the school board gave council members at the first joint session on the school budget last Wednesday.

The council restored: 26 openings in the "teacher pool," a budget allocation that allows the hiring of additional teachers for low- or high-enrollment classes; 12 teachers for the middle school Gifted and Talented Program; seven teachers who share their expertise with classroom teachers in such areas as mathematics; custodians to staff the two schools opening next fall; and money to cover books and materials as well as professional training for teachers.

Most changes were made over the opposition of Republican Councilmen Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, and Darrel E. Drown, R-2nd. Drown voted for restoration of the middle school gifted and talented positions. Both favored restoration of $750,000 for textbooks and materials.

The 1991-1992 school budget now stands at $180.7 million, with the county government'sshare at $138.6 million, about $1 million more than what Ecker proposed and about $2 million less than the county is spending this year. Ecker cut $8.8 million from the board's request for $146 million share of a $188 million budget. Superintendent Michael E. Hickey originally sought a $200.8 million budget for the schools.

Teacher frustration with the situation and resentment of Ecker's $80,000 salary as county executive and $40,000 annual pension from the school system boiled over at a meeting between Drown and Dunloggin Middle School faculty members Monday.

The school is in the Ellicott City district Drown represents. Dunloggin math teacher Linda Dugan, one of his constituents, asked for the meeting.

Teachers told Drown that next fall, they won't be staying past the seven hours and 35 minutes required intheir contract to help students with classwork, do routine maintenance on the industrial arts equipment or attend night meetings.

Theyattacked Ecker for accepting a salary $20,000 higher than his predecessor's and for accepting the pension he receives as former deputy superintendent of the county school system. Last year, the council approved a raise for the executive and the council, effective this year.

"I don't see his sacrifice," Dugan said. "He doesn't feel the crunch we feel of higher taxes -- and my husband and I are both in education. We don't get our increase."

Drown responded, "Chuck Ecker andmyself are not out to get you. We're doing what we think is right, and I honestly believe that." But that assurance was received with open skepticism.

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